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Preserving Angelo's legacy
Angelo Bissessarsingh had
strong feelings about how his-
tory was being communicated
in T&T. That's why he wanted
to do it differently.
He set up the Facebook page An-
gelo Bissessarsingh's Virtual Muse-
um of Trinidad & Tobago in 2009,
when social media was still gaining
its legs in the country.
He wrote three books about T&T
history, using the stories of indi-
vidual people to highlight little
known but important facts about
For instance, in A Walk Back in
Time: Snapshots of the History
of Trinidad & Tobago, he told the
story of William Nicol, who became
Trinidad's first road fatality in 1911.
His death led to the setting up of the
Licensing Authority and the system
of driving regulations in T&T.
Bissessarsingh's collection of
short stories, Pancho's Dilemma
and Other Stories from the Cocoa
Fields, used fiction to expose readers
to the country's history.
"It was to do something unor-
thodox," he told journalist Roger
Dwarika last year, discussing the
writing of his books. "Something
that didn't say, 'Well, Columbus
discovered Trinidad in 1498 and in
1797 the British took Trinidad from
the Spanish ...'" He continued to list
historical factoids in a dry mono-
"That was not what I wanted is to
do," he said. "I wanted to tell a story."
Bissessarsingh's unique approach,
his enthusiasm and his charisma
earned him a dedicated following.
So that when he died last month at
the age of 34 from pancreatic cancer,
the President, the Prime Minister,
the Opposition Leader and other
members of the country's who's
who publicly mourned the loss.
"When you read those books
you get instantly a sense of legacy,
a sense of pride [in] our country,"
said bookseller/publisher Nigel
Khan, who helped publish Bisses-
"When his books were launched,
down to the president was there,"
President Anthony Carmona
gave scholarship winners copies of
Bissessarsingh's books at the Pres-
ident's Medal ceremony earlier this
Khan is a member of a committee
of Bissessarsingh supporters dedi-
cated to continuing Bissessarsingh's
legacy in different ways. At least
three more books are due to make
it to print. Next in the pipeline is
Woodland Shadows, a look at the
folklore of T&T.
Khan met Bissessarsingh and read
his books for the first time when
Bissessarsingh came to the Nigel R
Khan company headquarters to see
if they would be interested in pub-
lishing Walking with the Ancestors,
his first book.
"There was an instant energy,
spiritual connection with him,"
Khan recalled. "When you speak
to him, the vibration he gives out
is so powerful. When you open that
book and you realise what's pouring
out at you and hitting you in the face
was so profound."
Khan tells of Bissessarsingh's in-
sistence that he see the final version
of the book.
"The week before he died he called
me. He said, 'I need to see my book.'
We had to rush to get digital copies
of that book printed just for him,"
said Khan. "He got it the day be-
fore he died. His aunt read it to him
cover to cover. The next morning is
when they gathered around and he
determination to do what he could
for local history until his last breath
was reflected in multiple stories
about the young man.
"He was doing chemo and typing.
And you know how much pain that
chemo is," said Khan. "When he was
on the bed he was still typing, and
then he couldn't type any more.
Then he said, 'Call somebody. I will
say what I want, and they will type.'
"He said, 'This is my gift to Trin-
idad,'" Khan added. "Angelo means
angel. I do believe he was sent here
with a gift."
Khan said he and Bissessarsingh
supporters would try to get Bisses-
sarsingh's books on the schools'
They'd also like to see Bisses-
sarsingh honoured by fulfilling
his wishes that the Carnegie Free
Library be made into a heritage
library and a fund be established
to preserve the country's historic
buildings. Bissessarsingh's father,
Rudolph, has talked about turning
Bissessarsingh's Siparia home into
a museum filled with his historical
The Virtual Museum, which fea-
tures photos of documents, sites
and artefacts related to the history
of T&T, has continued with posts
from Bissessarsingh's aunt, Patricia
Bissessarsingh; history writer Geof-
frey MacLean; Glen Beadon, anoth-
er documenter of local history; and
other contributors. Patricia said she
and Bissessarsingh's brother, Mario,
would continue to administer the
"Focus is to now engage the
younger generation in reconnect-
ing with their rich historical past,"
Patricia wrote in an email. "We are
again pleading with Ministry of
Education to ensure that Angelo's
books be introduced both at prima-
ry and secondary school... and that
teachers make the effort to expose
students to the rich stories of our
past that Angelo took time to re-
search and document."
Climate talks coming
There will be a fundraising film screen-
ing on March 29 to boost efforts towards
the creation of the first food-producing
edible green roof in Port-of-Spain, said
The group said in a press release it would be
undertaking a series of events called Climate
Talk; the screening is one of these events.
"The Climate Talk project began with a part-
nership with the [Canadian High Commission]
during Phase 1, from January-March 2017. We
are excited to announce here also the German
Embassy has partnered with IAMovement to
continue taking Climate Talk forward for the
rest of the year under Phase 2, which will run
from April- December 2017," the release stated.
"Under Climate Talk, the short documen-
tary film Small Change, produced by IAMo-
vement, is being shown in some 40 schools,
organisations and public spaces throughout
2017, accompanied by interactive open floor
discussions about the many social, economic
and environmental benefits which T&T can
experience by 'going green'
The film is one of the two being shown at the
fundraiser; the other is Leonardo DiCaprio's
2016 documentary Before the Flood.
"Along with the films, the Climate Talk team
will lead an interactive open-floor discussion
about climate change in a local context, pri-
marily taking a look at renewable energy op-
portunities in T&T, and other key issues we
currently face such as waste and recycling."
The screening is set to take place March 29
at 5.30 pm at MovieTowne, Port-of-Spain.
More info: Call 396-9683, email:
email@example.com or visit the
IAMovement Facebook Page.
Historian Angelo Bissessarsingh receives the Humming Bird Gold Medal for his loyal and devoted service to T&T in
the sphere of history and education in 2016.
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